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Rear Admiral's Eastern Conference Final Preview And Prediction

                                         “Hey Pens, suck on deez nuts!”                                

The Bruins continue their stroll through playoff memory lane once again, this time meeting the Pittsburgh Penguins for a rematch of the ‘91 and ‘92 Wales Conference finals in their fifth overall meeting. The Lunch Pail A.C. beat them in ‘79 and ‘80, back in the NHL’s then-Rubik’s Cubian playoff set-up. But unlike two decades ago when they were going against an in-his-prime Mario Lemieux and a star-dotted roster, the Bruins are in a much better position to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years.

Let us not forget that these (mostly) same Pens lost a year ago to Ilya Bryzgalov and his .887/3.46. They needed six games to beat an awful Evgeni Nabokov in round one (if the Isles had the choice to start, say, Timmy Thomas, they would’ve won the series). In round two, Craig Anderson suddenly turned into the proverbial pumpkin at midnight and didn’t provide anywhere near the goaltending Ottawa would need to make an upset happen. Needless to say, they haven’t faced a goalie like Tuukka Rask in the playoffs since they got Rolosoned in the first round two years ago.

After Penguins starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury turned into Wonder Twin Zan (“Form of…a puddle!”) in the first round for the second straight season, Pens coach Dan Bylsma had to go with back-up Tomas Vokoun. And while he’s sporting nice numbers (1.85/.941), he hasn’t had to steal a game. But he can be had. Here’s what the Bs need to do to go for their second Cup in three years.

1. Be physical. No, not dirty or cheap. Just be hard and nasty. Make Sid Crosby and Geno Malkin pay a price every single time they are on the ice. The Bruins need to do to Crosby what the Red Wings just did to Jonny Toews for seven games—fucking pound him every chance and keep him from hurting you offensively. Though the Hawks advanced, it wasn’t because Toews got chances.

2. Maintain discipline. This means don’t take stupid penalties and don’t go running around after that piece of shit Matt Cooke—just treat him like any other player and if you have a clean shot, nail him. But the last thing the Bs want to do is put this squad on the power play because that’s a recipe for hari-kari. Stay out of the box. When Crosby inevitably does go down quicker than a casting couch girl, Boston’s penalty killers will have their hands full but they’re not among the league’s best for no reason. They just need to minimize the opportunities by playing smart hockey, especially in Pittsburgh.

3. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Then shoot some more. Vokoun’s rebound control has been similar to James Reimer’s. That is to say, it sucks. The Bruins simply need to pepper him as much as they can and crash the net to pounce on his juicy-as-a-mango rebounds. If they can get to Vokoun, who played in just 11 playoff games in 14 seasons prior to this year, will Bylsma go back to Fleury? I’m not sure how he can. But it would be one hell of a predicament to put the Pens coach in.

4. The depth needs to win out. Expect Claude to match Crosby with Patrice Bergeron (as well as Zdeno Chara). Though it’s doubtful the reigning Selke winner will keep this year’s MVP favorite off the scoresheet completely, he will neutralize him to some extent. And though he’s been known for his offense in the playoffs, David Krejci’s been pretty damn good in his own end as well and will be presumably going against the Malkin line (yes, this can all change on a whim). If the top two lines could, more or less, offset each other, then the series could swing on each team’s bottom six. Which means the Bruins will need more from the Peverley-Kelly-Seguin trio. The fourth line just needs to keep on doing what it’s been doing.

5. Keep letting Krug go wild. Torey Krug was an outta nowhere blessing in the second round after injuries felled Dennis Seidenberg, Wade Redden, and Andy Ference, forcing the diminutive youngster into action. He responded by becoming the first ever NHLer to score four goals in his first five playoffs games. He, along with fellow rookie Matt Bartkowski, gave the D a look and element it lacked all year and also goosed the power play. Given the sky-high confidence, expect more dynamic play out of the youngster. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Claude go with Ference over Bartkowski at some point for his toughness and experience. As for the Chara/Seidenberg pairing, I’d expect to see it. And then not see it. And then likely see it again.

6. Tuukka needs to just keep doing what he’s doing. Thanks to my pal Felger, Tuukka falling has somehow turned into Greg Brady finding the tiki necklace all over again. Yeah, right. Even though he’s not in the top three in save percentage or goals against, Rask has been nothing short of outstanding in these playoffs and there’s no reason to expect it won’t continue. This is the area in which the Bruins have the biggest advantage and it’s where the series is going to swing. Goaltender is the most important position this time of year and the Bruins have it in spades over the Penguins. And that is why…

The Bruins will win in 6. And throw a few pesos on them at +165 for good measure.

A few more buds for your conference finals bowl…

*I hate to keep picking against the Chicago but I got the Kings in 6. LA at +125 is worth a series play as well.

*I don’t need to look up 1940’s rosters—this is the NHL’s best final four ever. The last four Cup champs facing off, ‘09 vs. ‘11 and ‘10 vs. 12. Not to mention, four major cities staggered across the continent will be ratings gold. All that dopey talk about fans coming back is oh so quaint now.

*In addition to the war on the ice, there’s also a brother vs. brother element off of it. Bruins Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Scott Fitzgerald and his brother Tommy, who is assistant TO the general manager in Pittsburgh, will each be looking for their second ring but only one Fitzy is going to get it. Apropos of nothing, their dad is a Bruins season ticket holder. Get well, Scotty.

*I’m hearing a lot of the same stuff about Jaromir Jagr that I did about Mark Recchi two years ago which means that #68 should break his playoff goal cherry soon. Things were looking up for his linemates Bergeron and Brad Marchand as the Rangers series went on so look for this line to contribute.

*All due respect to Chelmsford’s own Phil Bourque, but he gets a Penguins ‘Legends’ shirt at their arena but they don’t even make a Jagr one? Be more petty, Mario.

*Even though the two Game 7s have been played, with potentially three more, this piece by Katie Baker on Game 7s is well worth the read. Though she compares it to acid because of they way every little thing is magnified, I’d say it’s more like coke because you’re heart is racing and you feel like you’re gonna shit your pants. And that’s if you don’t even have a horse in the race. When it’s your team in a Game 7, it’s like being in the room with Rollergirl and Amber Waves during the “Are you my mom?” scene.

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*Straight up class and professionalism by our boy Logan Couture here. Not an easy thing to do an hour after your season ends in heartbreak but it shows he gets it. Still a kick in the balls that the Bruins took Zach Hamill one spot ahead of Couture.

*If you have 11 minutes to kill, I strongly recommend you watch this mini-doc on Clint Malarchuk and the after-effects of being nearly killed on the ice when he took a skate to the neck. It’s incredibly harrowing as the former Sabre recounts his lengthy off-ice battle with his demons and you want to cry for the guy.

*And after you watch it, read this great piece by @DownGoesBrown on what happens to those players that inadvertently play a role in horrific injuries and how the extraordinarily bad can come from something so ordinary.

*Doc, Edzo, and Pierre will be doing the Bs/Pens series on TV. This is the equivalent of taking Marge on a date but Patty and Selma have to tag along as well. As much as I appreciate Emrick, you can’t beat Dave Goucher and Andy Brickley on 98.5. No sugarcoating there.

 

@RearAdBsBlog

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